10,000 Maniacs

1981-
Natalie MerchantVocals1981-1993
Jerry AugustyniakDrums1983-
Rob BuckGuitar1981-1999
Dennis DrewKeyboards1981-
Steve Gustafson Bass1981-
John LombardoGuitar1981-1986, 1994-2002
Mary RamseyVocals1993-
Oskar SavilleVocals2007-

10,000 Maniacs Artistfacts

  • The band gets its unusual name from the 1964 film Two Thousand Maniacs!, expanded to 10,000 because there were originally five of them. Two Thousand Maniacs! is a cheesy, gorefest, splatter film by noted schlock director H.G. Lewis. Its poster says it all with the blurb "An entire town bathed in pulsing human blood! Madmen crazed for carnage!" and prominently features a scantily clad B-movie blonde tied up.
  • The group has accumulated a legion of former members thanks to its revolving-door lineup history, but the most famous and founding member was Natalie Merchant. Merchant left in 1993 to start a solo career, but the group kept going without her, replaced by Mary Ramsey.

    "Natalie was always truthful and forward with our business dealings together," bass player Steven Gustafson said in a Songfacts interview. "She has also been very generous. We all have a lot of respect for her talents and understood her desire to get away from us and the constraints we put on her music. She had different visions and I think we got in the way of those sometimes. We are very happy for her success as a solo artist and she wishes us well."
  • Lead singer Natalie Merchant was just 17 years old when she was invited to try out for the vocals. She fit, and the group, which started as Still Life, formed around her. They performed together for the first time in 1981 - Merchant was about 10 years younger than her bandmates.
  • Like many college bands, 10,000 Maniacs grew out of a cult following. Starting in 1981, they never had a single even graze the bottom of any of the major charts until 1988 with "Like the Weather" (which got #68 on the US Hot 100 and #37 on US Mainstream), followed rapidly by "What's The Matter Here" (#80 on US Hot 100 but #9 on US Alternative), which qualifies as their "break-out hit." Their chart performance has continued to be spotty since, but they're the kind of group which attracts sell-out crowds of loyal fans without really having to worry about mainstream popularity.
  • 10,000 Maniacs was the guest of honor on the TV series MTV Unplugged in both 1990 and 1993, making them the first group to make a second appearance.
  • While Natalie Merchant is a vegetarian and an environmentalist, in an interview with the Indianapolis Star in 1997, she revealed that "The '60s aesthetic has never really appealed to me, the tie-dyed Deadhead running barefoot through the forest on LSD. I don't think that's really me."
  • In her days with the band, Merchant referred to Madonna as her "ideological enemy." Mechant went for deep social commentary and played down any hint of sexuality.
  • Peter Asher, who produced much of the seminal work for James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, produced the 10,000 Maniacs albums In My Tribe (1987) and Blind Man's Zoo (1989). "I loved the songs they wrote, I loved the way Natalie sings, loved the way her voice sounded, and Natalie and I got on really well," he told Songfacts. "The challenge I suppose was, working with a band is a bit different than working with studio musicians because you make suggestions, in a way, more tentatively."

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